Six Simple Steps for Stress Management
In part one, Stress: The Insidious Enemy, we explored how easily stress can creep up on us unawares and some signs to help us recognize it.
If some of these signs appear in your life, here are six simple steps you can take to reduce negative stress and increase joy.
- Acknowledge reality
Remember you are not alone. Stress is at a record high in our society.
So monitor yourself for warning signs of stress build-up. For example, do you find yourself complaining all the time or do others often suggest you are irritable? Do you have difficulty sleeping, concentrating or prioritizing? Do you catch every bug going around?
When you notice signs of increasing stress, act immediately.
Take mini breaks
Many activities require a concentrated focus, whether using a computer screen or doing paperwork. This causes eye strain which stresses the body. Shift your focus away every twenty minutes or so to reduce the strain on your eyes.
Stretch or take a walk to the water cooler. Your muscles will appreciate the stretch—water will help flush out toxins that stress your body.
Walk at lunch—preferably outside if even for ten or fifteen minutes. Your brain will appreciate the fresh air—the change of scenery will help clear your thoughts.
- Get physical, but in moderation
According to Christopher Bergland, world-class endurance athlete, coach and author, the stress hormone, cortisol, is public health enemy number one.
Excess cortisol produced by our fast-paced, high-pressured lives builds up in our system. Regular exercise can break it down.
Find a sport or exercise you like. Take long walks, jog, swim, dance, chase a ball, hit a punching bag, …
But be wise—extreme exercise can be counter-productive, stimulating the production of more cortisol. Heed the advice of experts and set reasonable targets for yourself.
Practice mindfulness—out with the bad; in with the good
Draw your attention back to the present moment.
A simple way to do this is to pause and take several deep breaths, inhaling through the nose and exhaling slowly through the mouth. Focus your attention on your breathing and notice how your body feels.
As you continue to breathe in, picture yourself inhaling positive energy. As you exhale, see yourself releasing stress and tension from your muscles and your thoughts.
Change your emotional state
Many believe they have no control over their emotions. Circumstances do trigger emotions, but you get to choose what you do with those emotions.
The more you dwell on negative emotions, the more entrenched they become. They can easily hijack your brain and dominate your thoughts—even your physiology. So how do you interrupt this negative spiral?
Laugh—read some jokes or watch a comedy show. Play—games, puzzles, cards.
Practice thankfulness. Daily, jot down things you are thankful for like good friends, good weather, good books; a compliment you received; or waking up with less pain.
And when you find yourself slipping back into negativity, interrupt your thoughts and bring to mind the things for which you are grateful.
Check your expectations
Remember my friend in part one who stressed out trying to make her wedding perfect?
Stop obsessing with perfection. Make your plans, put them into action and expect changes. It is not the things that go wrong that derail us; it is expecting that everything should go according to plan.
Check your self-talk. If you find yourself in “expectation turmoil”, step back to regain perspective. Next week, next month, next year, will this matter? If you need help with this, talk it out with a friend. Just hearing your own thoughts and your friend’s response can give you a fresh perspective.
Learn to keep the small challenges small and moderate your expectations of perfection.
Practice these six simple steps daily to release stress and bring more joy back to your life!
In addition, the Entegrys Resiliency Inventory provides insights into building your capacity to manage stress.
You can also test drive the Entegrys Focus tools with a FREE self-assessment in the High Demand role! Check it out here!